Last updated: 14 July, 2011

Israel protesters call for Shalit release

Several hundred protesters gathered on Thursday to call for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in the Gaza Strip since his capture by Palestinian militants in 2006.

The protest, outside the Tel Aviv offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, was timed to coincide with the French national holiday Bastille Day. Shalit holds dual French and Israeli citizenship.

The demonstrators criticised the ICRC for failing to secure permission to visit Shalit, who has been held at an undisclosed location in Gaza since his capture in June 2006.

“Visiting rights for Shalit,” and “Red Cross, red card,” shouted the crowd of between 200 to 300 protesters, most of them Israelis of French origin.

They delivered a letter to the organisation, which seeks access to prisoners taken in conflicts across the world, “reiterating the demand for visits for the French-Israeli hostage.”

The protesters organised the event to coincide with Bastille Day, a national holiday in France that is often marked by parties and public celebration.

“This evening, a French citizen does not have the right to drink champagne. We have come to show our solidarity with our fellow dual citizen and compatriot Gilad Shalit,” said Yoram Bitane, one of the protest’s organisers.

Shalit was 19 when he was captured on June 25, 2006 by three armed groups, including the Islamist movement Hamas.

He has not been permitted visits by the Red Cross, and the last sign of life dates back to October 2009 when Hamas released a video of him calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to do everything to free him.

Indirect negotiations on a prisoner swap, which would see hundreds of Palestinians released in exchange for Shalit, have been stalled for months.